Recovering From Our Busy Weekend

We had a really busy weekend over here and are in need of another weekend to recover!

We’ve been trying to go out at least one night every week on a date and so on Friday night we started with a drink and appetizer at a bar and then headed to a Szechuan place for dinner.

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At the restaurant we chose the two person set menu and asked our waiter to recommend which dishes to have for each course. The menu was all in Chinese as was everything our waiter said  and we weren’t familiar with some of the dishes he recommended. The first dish that came out we knew was going to be pork based but neither of us were quite sure what exactly it was.

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I tried it but wasn’t a fan. The sauce was nice and the texture was chewy but I couldn’t help but think that it might possibly be pig intestines. The remaining dishes were thankfully all familiar to us.

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We slowly scoffed them down in between big gulps of water as Szechuan food is mouth-numbingly spicy!

Saturday I was up early cleaning the house and making carmel corn. My friends were throwing me a baby shower, held at my house, and the carmel corn was to put in favors for the guests.

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We had a great time and I will post about it as soon as I get the photos my friend took of it.

Then on Sunday we had our first birth class. We’ll be doing four in total over the next few weeks. The first class in the series covered the ins and outs of going into labor. We both found the class really informative and are glad to have signed-up. It certainly makes us feel as though we are a bit better prepared for the big day. After class I was ready to collapse from exhaustion but couldn’t as we still had one more engagement plus a night of Chinese study ahead.

Our Taiwanese friends wanted to take us out to a hot pot lunch to celebrate the Chinese New Year and  the pending arrival or our new addition. They both can speak pretty darn good English but Luke and I are always keen to practice our Chinese so I spent the lunch exhausting myself even more as I searched for the right words and grammar patterns to use.

The food at the hot pot restaurant was excellent. We’re both big fans of this style of interactive eating.

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IMG_4093This week I plan to take it easy. I’m 31 weeks pregnant and feeling the effects of carrying around the extra 20 pounds. ‘Pregnancy brain’ is also starting to kick in (I think mostly due  to being so tired!).

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新年快樂!(Happy New Year!): Camping at Sun Moon Lake

Last week was the Chinese New Year here in Taiwan. Most Taiwanese get a whole week off work and spend that time with their families celebrating. Luke and I also had the week off and were kindly invited to do some things with our Taiwanese friends. On Sunday night we had a lovely dinner with one of my old Chinese teachers and her family. And on Thursday, we joined my current Chinese tutor and her family for a night of camping down in Sun Moon Lake. It was definitely the highlight of our vacation!

We left chilly, overcast Taipei around 9:30am on Thursday morning and made our way down the west coast stopping along the way for lunch.

IMG_3888The place we had lunch at was a huge rest stop filled with a large selection of restaurants and shops. There was even an area called ‘the Tunnel of Love’ with a graffiti wall for lovers. Coincidentally it was Valentine’s Day!

IMG_3892We made it to our camping destination sometime after 1pm.

IMG_0721The setting was beautiful- we were right on the lake. The sunny, warm weather helped too.

IMG_3895Our friends were already there and had a great set-up. In addition to my tutor, her husband, and their three kids, there was her Mom, her sister, her husband, their two kids and her brother and two kids.

IMG_0733The tent we rented was raised up on stilts and had a thin mattress pad lining the inside. So we just had to bring our sleeping bags and four pillows that I arrange in various positions around my body to make sleeping more comfortable.

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After we unpacked and organized our stuff, we all headed into the small town down the road and caught a ferry to take us across to the main town. Being Chinese New Year it was pretty busy around the lake. The line for the ferry was long but moved very quickly.

IMG_3896The view from the boat was really nice. The lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains.

IMG_3904Here’s us on the boat:

IMG_3905Once on the other side of the lake we all rented bikes and hit the bike trail. My bike was extra fancy as it was electric! Perfect for me in my tired pregnant state. I rode it like a scooter most of the way and was able to keep up with Luke.

IMG_3911We rode for about an hour in total.

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IMG_3914After biking we were driven back to camp where dinner was awaiting us. My Chinese teacher’s sister had make a couple of hot pots – one with a sour soup base and one with a spicy base. Both pots had various meats, fishballs, and veggies. I was a big fan of the sour base and ate so many bowls that I didn’t have room to try the spicy one.

IMG_3917The kids were super cute while waiting to get their bowls filled up.

IMG_3920I got lucky and in one serving got a Hello Kitty fish ball.

IMG_3924After dinner we played board games until almost midnight! The latest I’ve stayed up in a long time.

IMG_3929And in the morning, after a short walk, Luke and I returned to the campsite for birthday cake! A few days before it was my Chinese teacher’s son’s birthday so they brought along a yummy cake to celebrate with everyone.

IMG_0729After packing up we said our goodbyes and thank-yous and headed back to Taipei.

IMG_0736We had such a great time in Sun Moon Lake and can’t wait to return.

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Third Trimester

I have finally entered the third trimester of my pregnancy.  My stomach has undergone an incredible transformation over the past seven months.

Here I am at the start of the first trimester (not believing anything is really in there):

IMG_7299The second trimester (and thinking my bump was huge):

IMG_2866And finally, the third (now that’s a belly):

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I’m about 29.5 weeks today so 10.5 weeks away from my due date of 28 April. Time goes slow at the start of pregnancy but now it is really starting to fly. It’s amazing how big I am now and that I will get even bigger!

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And with the growth has come all the not so fun aspects of pregnancy. Sleep has been difficult. I have a lot of back and hip pain which I try to ease by doing yoga 2-3x a week. I’ve also just recently started to get some heartburn. I haven’t had any swelling, stretch marks or leg cramps but there is still time! I have also slowed right down. Apart from yoga and the occasional swim, I walk everyday and try and do light weights here and there. But I am finding that during activities I need to take frequent rests.

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Perhaps one of the most amazing things about being pregnant is being able to feel the baby inside of you. I started feeling movement around 19/20 weeks pregnant and over the weeks the movement have gotten sharper more frequent. And now it feels like the baby is playing soccer or has a punching bag inside of me all day long! I can feel and see his legs/arms pushing on my stomach. It’s incredible but sometimes can be a tad uncomfortable – especially when it takes you by surprise in the middle of the night.

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I am also really starting to feel like we have a lot to do in such a short amount of time! Luke and I this week have been getting stuff together for the nursery. We cleaned out the room the baby will be in and headed to Ikea where we picked up the crib/mattress and a new set of drawers for baby. This weekend we are starting birth classes, which we will attend for the next four Sundays. I just hope now that he doesn’t decide to come early so we can get these things done!

Cuddly Cats and Two Recipes

While we were in the States we boarded Goose and Fern at this awesome place called ‘Cats N Life’ in Taipei. The facilities are very nice – super clean, and a good size . But the best feature about the place was that they had web cams in each of the cat rooms where you could watch your cats in real-time. How cool is that? So while we were away I would check in on them several times a day.

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It really set my mind at ease to be able to see them on demand 24/7 and know they were okay. I still missed them like crazy but I think the time together on their own actually brought them closer together. Since we’ve been back they’ve been super affectionate to one another. Here are some of my favorite moments:

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Apart from snapping a million photos of cats I’ve also been in the kitchen making lots of tasty things. Luke and I both recently had a hankering for lasagna. There is a very small  selection of italian ingredients available in Taipei supermarkets and of what you can find they are all super $$$. But I figured lasagna, a meal that would last us several dinners was worth the splurge.

So I went about collecting the various components to make lasagna – pasta sheets, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and spinach. The one thing I was unable to locate (a key ingredient) was ricotta cheese. Instead of giving up I turned my mind to thinking about substitutes. I opened our fridge and staring back at me was a block of firm tofu. Voila! My ‘ricotta cheese’! It turned out delicious, the ricotta was not missed at all.

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Amazing Tofu Spinach Lasagna

Ingredients 

-1/2 (12 ounce) package uncooked lasagne noodles

-1 (12 ounce) block firm tofu

-2 eggs

-1/4 cup milk

-1 big jar spaghetti sauce (or about 2 cups homemade)

-1 tablespoon dried mixed italian herbs

-2 cups shredded mozzarella

-1 generous bunch of spinach (cooked,  drained, and chopped)

-salt/pepper to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

3. Place about 1/2 cup of the spaghetti sauce in a separate bowl.

4. In a medium bowl combine tofu, eggs, salt, pepper, milk, remaining spaghetti sauce, parsley, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, and cooked spinach.

5. Spread half of the reserved spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

6. Alternate lasagna noodles with the sauce mixture, ending with noodles.

7. Spread the remaining reserved spaghetti sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.

8. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 35 minutes.

The other delicious thing I made this week was this:

IMG_3740It’s an Almond Cake using marzipan (which I love). Marzipan is usually an extremely  pricey ingredient here so I avoid recipes that use it. But I was at IKEA the other day to my surprise they were selling blocks of marzipan for $2! I’m kicking myself now for only grabbing one.

Anyhow, for the cake I followed this recipe (minus the almond garnish on top). It turned out beautifully and was gone within a day!

January: the Month of Birthdays

January is a month full of birthdays. In addition to mine, there my is Dad’s, Luke’s Mum (her 50th, in fact!), his sister Pearl’s and his brother Ben’s. I can also count at least six of our friends who celebrated bdays. January is clearly a popular month to be born.

My 29th birthday was on January 19th. On the day I woke up and baked myself a cake. Luke offered to bake or buy me one, but I insisted on doing it myself. The reason being there was a cake recipe I was itching to try out.

IMG_3630It’s a Neapolitan cake and, like the ice cream, consists of three layers of cake: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. So I baked each individual layer.

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Spread strawberry jam between each layer and then frosted it with a cream cheese frosting.

IMG_3632Yes, it tasted as good as it looks.

That evening Luke and I had reservations at a steakhouse. This was my first Birthday in over 15 years that I was no longer a vegetarian so I was really keen to try a really nice steakhouse. So after some research we decided on No. 168 Prime Steakhouse. Next door to the restaurant is a large shopping mall, complete with a giant ferris wheel. We arrived a bit early so walked around before our reservations.

IMG_3597Once inside the restaurant we were immediately shown to our seats and the hostess, noticing that I was pregnant, brought me a pillow to place behind my back! After scoping out the menu we decided to go for the set menus, which included an appetizer, soup, main dish, side dish, dessert, and coffee or tea. There was a good 5 or 6 different choices for each item which made it difficult to choose. Luke also ordered wine pairings for his courses.

Here’s a glimpse of what we had.

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IMG_3611The food was out of this world delicious. I was blown away by the steak. I was so happy that I decided to start eating meat again, I really have been missing out!

While we were eating our desserts the staff brought around a special Birthday dessert plate. We were already so full but managed to take a few bites.

IMG_3617It was a pretty special evening – my last birthday before the baby and before the big   3-0!

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